Universal Access To All Knowledge
Home Donate | Store | Blog | FAQ | Jobs | Volunteer Positions | Contact | Bios | Forums | Projects | Terms, Privacy, & Copyright
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)

Reply to this post | Go Back
View Post [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 19, 2011 11:22am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Jerry's "jazz" style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

This is a detailed followup to Light into Ashes response to an earlier post I made about the development of Jerry's guitar style. This post owes a lot to LiA and the JGMF blog. The topic was the idea that Jerry changed from a rock/blues basis for his improvisation in the late 60s to a more fusion jazz style that reached its height in 73-74, I mentioned the inspiration of Miles Davis' electric bands, and suggested that Playing in the Band's jam was where a lot of this musical growth took place. LiA replied that, along with the arrival of Keith, Garcia's collaboration with Howard Wales were also very important to these developments. I decided to dig into the details and I think we can tell a story that fits all these pieces together perfectly.Our first exhibit is Playing in the Band from 1/2/72:


This version is still "embryonic", performed the same way as 1971, with just a few seconds of riffs from Jerry that elaborate the Main Ten theme. We can hear the seed of its later development, but that is all. Now, the next versions of PITB we find are from the Academy of Music run in March. Take a listen to the Playin from 3/22:


WHOA! Suddenly, we have the full-blown, authentic version with a large central jam and Jerry simply wailing with wild, shrieking tones. The Playins from this run have a searing intensity. Despite it being a partial and imperfect AUD, the 3/26 performance shows the band digging even deeper, blowing the crowd's mind and probably amazing themselves as well. Jerry seems almost possessed.


What happened in between 1/2/72 and 3/22/72? The Jerry Garcia and Howard Wales east coast tour in late January. Their 1/26/72 performance is pretty revelatory listening. This performance brims with inventive Jerry playing that really shows his growth as a musician from the late 60s, and a new freedom to play "against" the rhythm section rather than locking in with it, as well as growing use of the rapid tremolos that became a trademark and reached apotheosis in the "tiger".

I learned from JGMF that there is even a connection between the Garcia-Wales shows and Miles' "Bitches Brew" era bands - the opening act for Jerry and Howard was John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu orchestra! This is pure speculation, but I wonder if Jerry watched the opening act and was inspired by McLaughlin's fearless and technically impressive playing to be bolder in his own approach - and no musician ever wants to feel outplayed by the opener.

I don't want to overstate these associations, the Dead had been playing "electric jazz" since the beginning, and late 71 jams sometimes approach the 72 feel. In the real world there are always multiple causes for each effect, and the January Garcia-Wales shows need to be considered alongside the musical growth of other members of the band. Kreutzmann's increasing virtuosity and mastery of the solo drummer role, Weir coming into his own as a guitarist and songwriter, and the integration of Keith also contributed greatly to making 1972 such a wonderful vintage. That said, I do believe that the JGHW performances were important for the changes in Jerry's style, and that the March 1972 performances of Playing in the Band represented a musical breakthrough for the band which gave Jerry a new territory to explore and make use of new ideas.

This post was modified by bkidwell on 2011-04-19 18:13:50

This post was modified by bkidwell on 2011-04-19 18:22:42

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: jgmf Date: Apr 20, 2011 4:40am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

Thank you, bkidwell. Very interesting analysis.

Somewhere, in some interview, Garcia talks explicitly about not liking McLaughlin's guitar playing. I will see if I can dig it up. There are contemporary reviews of a few of the shows from that January '72 tour that contrast Garcia and McLaughlin quite directly. At some point I'll also try to post about those.

I agree that the transformation of PITB over that period is more rapid than simple "natural" evolution ... they appear to have quite consciously developed it, as you note. Like other commenters, though, I do suspect it was laying it down for Ace that led to the development more than it was the McLaughlin influence. But I am just speculating.

I don't know when the Ace sessions happened. I'd really like to. One might hope that the business papers in the UCSC archives might have studio contracts and such that could shed light, but who knows at this point.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 20, 2011 5:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

Those reviews would be interesting to read.

I can understand Garcia not getting into McLaughlin's heavy speed trips. Though I haven't seen that interview, there is the '81 interview with Jackson & Gans where he says he doesn't like the Weather Report/Return to Forever/Al DiMeola school of playing. "Music-school music; not really fun to listen to. I don't know why those guys, with their ability, don't have ensemble improvisation. They're certainly capable of doing it, but they don't for some reason... They all have that thing of rigid solo structures; I don't know why they've chosen to tie themselves to that. I think it really limits the dynamism that's available to them in the music."

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 20, 2011 7:23am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

While digging into this topic, I reread that interview (Garcia, David Gans, Blair Jackson April 28, 1981) also. I've always really liked Garcia's commentary because it matches my perception of elaborate virtuoso-progressive fusion jazz - "a lot of fingers, but not enough heart".

"Influence" is a tricky concept. In addition to the traditional idea of influence where a player tries to adopt elements of a style, there can be the opposite; a player can decide they want to differentiate themselves from a style, and deliberately avoid using its elements. Perhaps progressive fusion served as a negative example to Garcia, showing that a virtuoso technique and complex composition should never pursued to the exclusion of simple melody and emotional expression.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: jgmf Date: Apr 27, 2011 2:05pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

I'd agree with that. Not that Garcia needed any persuading about that by 1972, mind you. I think in his "hard core bluegrass" period he persuaded himself that he could get his fingers to do just about anything you might program them to do, but he found that sort of programmed playing to ultimately be a dead end. Or a Dead end, or a Dead End, or whatever. Thank goodness he learned that early, and spent the next 30 years striving to play feelings rather than notes.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: jgmf Date: Apr 20, 2011 5:48am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

That sounds familiar and is probably the quote I was thinking of. I thought there was something harsher from an earlier interview, but now I am not sure.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Skobud Date: Apr 19, 2011 11:32am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

I think that is an excellent assumption to make. Santana was also working with Mclaughlin during that time on Love Devotion Surrender which also helped fuel Carlos' change of direction musically. I really don't think too many people had heard an electric guitar played like that before.... To say John Mclaughlin was an influence to many is an understatement. I can easily see Jerry being very interested in his style.

Excellent post.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: Capt. Cook Date: Apr 19, 2011 5:50pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

In a Silent Way done in Early 1969 is an excellent entry point to the Bitches Brew 1970 sessions. Also, you have Frank Zappa doing some incredible fusion during this period, as well as bands like Gong, The Soft Machine, Steve Hillage, Mahavisnu, Joe Zawinull forming Weather Report from the various Bitches Brew cast. Miles actually used up to three drummers playing on some tracks, as well as three keyboard players together - a wall of sound and fury edited often to bits and pieces - 19 seperate edits in Pharoahs Dance! it seems Garcia must have been pushed as well by the new type of music that took the blues-based jams of Cream and the Dead and brought a wider array of chord changes and melodies to the table - The old style of riffing on a blues theme suddenly was out-dated as a young crop of guitar players came of age. Great post. Keep up the strong work... I studied Jazz at Berkelee and grew up on Love Devotion Surrender!!!

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 19, 2011 12:59pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

Ah, good work.

There's another element, though: Weir recorded Ace in Jan/Feb '72. If you listen to that version (one of the Dead's best studio performances, actually), it's clear they've made the jump in the jam, though it wasn't quite the firebreather it would be in March.

Keith was certainly a big factor as well. The band were already heading in a spacier direction in '71 (as in the Other Ones), but it's easy to hear how the jams take off into space after Keith arrives in October. I'm sure part of the change in Garcia's style was due to playing with Keith.
The band had been fans of Miles Davis's 'fusion' work since '69/70 - and McLaughlin was on those albums as well - but it didn't really affect their playing at the time (maybe indirectly, like in the Dark Stars). I think it was only after Keith arrived that they had the freedom & virtuosity to dive into their own type of 'fusion', and that was still a development that took a couple years. To be clear, there had been jazz elements in the Dead's playing for years (it's all over '68), but it was the addition of piano and the freeing-up of their playing over '71-'73 that brought them sonically closer to Miles-type music.

From a Bob Weir interview at All About Jazz:
"There was this soul romping of jazz in the 60s, and it was furious and cooking so we concentrated on that along with what Ornette was doing. In the early 70s, Miles came out with Bitches Brew and Live Evil, but we also listened to Return to Forever, which was fusion that hadn't slipped into its dry and intellectual mode yet. Those fusion guys had monstrous facility which seemed unattainable, but Bitches Brew was more groove oriented and a clear lightpost, so we did that stuff in rehearsal all the time. We could also pull it off on stage from time to time."
Q: Did the audience always follow?
"We would take the temperature of the audience and though nobody ever discussed it, there was an understanding...that there is only so much of this that we are going to get away with, because for the most part, the audience came to hear songs. And of course we loved to deliver songs."
(More jazz discussion here: http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2010/01/dead-and-jazz.html )

And remember, the '72 Wales tour was just a few shows. In 1970, Garcia had played with Wales weekly for several months (as we hear on the Side Trips CD). Yet I'm not sure if that had any effect on his GD playing that year. What we hear in Garcia's playing on 1/26/72 may be more what he brought to the table, rather than what Wales brought to him.

This was a JGMF post on the '72 Wales tour:
Jerry himself downplayed the tour: "I didn't really go on the road that time to play. The thing was really misrepresented. I just wanted to get Howard out playing, and the band had a nice thing going which really didn't have much to do with me. I was just there fucking around."
Apparently there was a lot of disappointment among deadheads who went to see Garcia, but got a hard dose of Wales music with Garcia as occasional sideman.

Wales' guitarist James Vincent wrote a memoir (Space Traveler), with some comments on the tour. He noticed that the deadheads in the audience did not take well to the Mahavishnu Orchestra!

He first saw the Howard Wales Band (Wales, Roger "the Roll" Troy, & Jerry Love) at the Lions Share in San Anselmo sometime in '71.
"The Roll told me that Howard had just finished an album with Jerry Garcia called Hooteroll. Howard had brought them back from out east to do another record for Douglas Records. Apparently Alan Douglas had a distribution deal with Columbia Records... There was even talk of a tour with Jerry Garcia upon the release of the Hooteroll album."
Struck by the music, Vincent joined the group immediately. "The band started playing some small gigs in places like the Matrix, Keystone Berkeley, and Lions Share. In the summer of 1971 we began recording at Columbia Studios in San Francisco...
"In the meantime, we hooked up with Jerry Garcia to prepare for an East Coast tour for the promotion of Hooteroll. When I met Jerry for our first and only rehearsal prior to going on the road, I had no idea how big this thing was going to be... I had never really paid much attention to that band."

The "Hooteroll Band" arrived in New York in Jan '72 (accompanied by Sam Cutler), and Vincent noted at the press conference that the reporters were eager to interview Jerry Garcia, while being "polite" to Wales.
"We played to a sold-out house at the Academy of Music and received an enthusiastic response, complete with encore. Our approach to playing music was not unlike the Dead's, except the musicianship was perhaps more technically advanced.
"After that night we were joined by another band that would open for us on the remainder of the tour. Observing this band in action was a humbling and inspirational experience for me. The group was the newly formed Mahavishnu Orchestra...
"The most prestigious venue on our tour was the final gig at Boston Symphony Hall. It was amazing to me that our audience, comprised mostly of "Dead Heads", did not seem at all impressed with the great music being played by our "warm up" band. It certainly was a new type of music...executed with a virtuosity that was unprecedented in rock, and it was obviously way over the heads of their listeners. In that audience, there were people with human skulls impaled on long poles, and they were ready to "jam", not to be taken on an esoteric musical journey executed with precision and elegance.
"Our two roadies were Joe Winslow and Steve Parrish, from the Dead Family. Not only were they real pros at their work, they were great protectors of the band. Whenever any ill-behaved audience members would try to storm the stage, these two could always be counted on to stop them dead in their tracks. Along with all of the gear they transported and set up every night, they always made sure we had a couple tanks of nitrous oxide ready to go..." (Vincent mentions that during the Boston show, Wales was soaring on an acid trip.)
That's about all he says about this band, in-between all the drug stories. And there are MANY drug stories about Douglas, Wales, etc... (Apparently Douglas was a cocaine fiend, while Wales had the most potent weed Vincent ever encountered, plus they were often dosed with LSD before shows; so the band was permanently wasted. "We all felt invincible...we all lived on the edge back then. Looking back, I feel truly thankful to be alive...")

He does talk about Wales' music:
"I very much enjoyed the musical freedom...it was unlike any band I had ever worked with. The songs were not difficult to learn, and we were never expected to play Howard's music the same way twice. That approach to our music produced a good deal of spontaneity and excitement when the band really 'connected', but we found that connection was not always a sure thing. When we were 'off', we could certainly be less than inspirational. Our unspoken goal was to give it a little time, develop as much consistency as possible, and just get comfortable playing together. One element that heavily influenced our rehearsal was the ever-present giant reefer..."

This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-04-19 19:59:09

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: bkidwell Date: Apr 19, 2011 2:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

Thanks for that excellent discussion of all this information! It would be very interesting to find out when the Ace version of Playing in the Band was recorded - before or after the handful of shows with Wales with Mahavishnu opening? That recording session is certainly when the decision was made - or the spontaneous jam happened - that extended the arrangement.

Reply to this post
Reply [edit]

Poster: light into ashes Date: Apr 20, 2011 5:04am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Jerry's 'jazz' style, Howard Wales tour, PITB March 72

I think Ace was recorded in February.
Weir spent a couple weeks in January out on a Wyoming ranch with Barlow, writing songs. When he returned, he started recording the album with Kreutzmann, and Dave Torbert on bass. Only then did the rest of the Dead start sneaking in to record with him - Weir was in a hurry as he had a two & a half-week studio deadline.
Since Garcia was on tour out east from Jan 21-29, timewise I don't think he worked on Ace until after he got back.

Terms of Use (31 Dec 2014)